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Craft Shows

The Secret Power of Craft Shows

The Power of Craft shows

Craft shows changed my life.

(I didn't know it until I started writing this post, but as I started to trace the roots of what I do today, I realized that's where it all started.)

Last weekend I sold my yarn for the first time in over a year (I put my yarn business on hold when I could no longer get packages out on time, thanks to traveling to teach. This weekend I was back in the game with a few skeins of my yarn (and my mom's sheep's fiber). Preparing for the show and helping my pal Misty think through the process brought it all back in a rush.

Even though I help Starshippers get prepared for their first shows (and 50th shows) every month, I had forgotten what it was like to be in it.
To be worried you don't have enough.
To do late night, last-minute labeling.
To get nervous about people seeing your work.

So, to calm my nerves, I searched my own site for advice (the major benefit of having a blog!). And sure enough I found it.

In 2008 (that's 6 years ago!), I wrote about my first craft show here, in 5 1/2 Shocking Facts about Craft Shows.

“You don’t have to (and probably can’t) fake enthusiasm.”

A month later, I wrote about my next show, with even more lessons:

“Be prepared to answer the “Can you make this in ***” question. Know how long it would take you and how you’ll handle payment for a custom order. If you don’t want to do custom, come up with a nice way of saying no, so you’re not taken by surprise in the moment.”

One year later, I wrote about the Pain of Craft Shows:

” I do craft shows because it’s the one place, the one situation in which being a full-time yarnie feels good, normal, accepted. The people get me. They get my yarn. It’s a place to be me: handknit clothes, stripey knee-socks, pink-haired, yarn-making me.”

Two years after that first post and my first show, I wrote this: “That feeling hasn’t faded in the last 2 years of doing shows; in fact, it’s only grown stronger.”

It occurred to me, in reading through these posts that this where I really got clear on the power of following my enthusiasm. This is where I learned that it is OK to be weird, pink-haired, wonky me. Those first shows, while I still worked in a boring office in black slacks, were the first taste I had (maybe ever?) of being myself out loud and connecting with people as that true self. Once you get a taste of that, you can start to imagine the possibility of being yourself, expressing yourself, like … all the time.

And this taste, this experience totally transformed my life. (Very, very slowly.)
For me this meant making more yarn, doing more shows, and connecting with people in the maker community. That led to me spending my days writing, talking, and helping other makers bring more of themselves into their businesses, to craft a life they really want.

 

But for you, the path will be different. It will lead you in different directions. You can start to express yourself more in how you dress, how you tell the truth and how you embrace all your weird bits.

I totally haven't figured it out yet, and I'm certainly not comfortable being myself all the time, but it's a process. You can kick-start the process by choosing to do things you're enthusiastic about, by doing more of what makes you feel like yourself, and by letting those experiences transform you.

 

Whether it's craft shows, or making your art, or just starting to take your enthusiasm more seriously — it could change your life.

PS. I made a class sharing everything I knew about craft shows 4 years ago. Currently it's only available in the Starship, but I hope to refresh it and offer it again in 2015. Sign up here to get notified when it's ready.

Planning for non-planners

Confession: I'm not a planner.

There, I said it.

I love to implement ideas as soon as I have them.
I like to focus on the part of my business  that I'm most excited about, at that moment.

I run two businesses, teach classes monthly, email tips for craftybiz weekly and write daily.
And yet. I'm not a planner.
I write, teach, email as inspiration strikes.

This is my dirty secret.

Because  this is not what I recommend.
Operating ONLY in this way ensures that I forget all about things like holidays, or anniversaries, or opportunities to do something really cool.

Luckily, it's possible to both ride the wave of inspiration and to plan a bit.
It's all about the Cycle of Creativity.

When I'm on a high, when I'm feeling the momentum of creativity pushing towards more creativity and action, I ride it. I do it.

But when that fades and I'm feeling fallow, I can take the time (and energy) to stop and look around.

Where am I now?

Where do I hope to be? What deadlines (real and imagined) are looming?

I was doing a bit of this planning today (because, yes, the combination of a yarn flurry last week and the flu has landed me squarely in the restive part of the cycle) and I thought I'd share some of the process.

Most of this is done in my journal and all of it comes organicially. I try to let myself write and write, without editing and without worry about What It All Means.

An assortment of non-planning questions

What's coming up? Dates, classes, holidays, themes, money needs? What does the next week  look like, as it is, right now?
The next month?
What would I like to have the next week look like? What about the next month?
(this includes: personal and business, emotional and financial)
Is there something that's been on the back burner that's ready to move forward?

Now. What does it all Mean?

What fits together? What doesn't fit? What can be moved around? What can be put aside?

In other words: what are the connections? The patterns?

And then, if I'm still in the mood

What small steps will take me from Here to There?
Don't be afraid to list Every. Single. Step.

(for example, one of my plans is to take over 100 skeins of handspun to Seattle. How many skeins a week is that? How many a day?)

And the amazing thing?

This planning, it is usually the impetus that moves me from fallow to creative, from empty to full of ideas.

This morning I was achey and tired and mope and now, 1101 words (thanks to 750words) into answering these questions, I am full to bursting with plans and inspirations and plots.

In fact, I came up with a don't-be-overwhelmed-by-the-holidays plan for myself that  I think I'll invite you to play with in the next week or so!
To make sure you get the invitation, sign up for here.

Are you a Planner? How do you do it?

A cushion for the meh

I've been thinking a lot about craft shows and picking a good one and the inevitable meh show. It can be so disappointing when things don't go as well as you like and it so easy to slip into self-doubt. To keep myself from spiraling too far into the meh, I'm compiling a list of things to remind/encourage myself next time.

What's a meh show?

Any show that doesn't thrill you.

Maybe your expectations were high (and unmet).
Maybe your location wasn't great.
Maybe there were too many people selling the same thing.
Maybe the crowd wasn't in the mood to shop.

It seems like there's not a lot you can do.

And it's easy to see all the ways you can't turn the show around.
You can't change your place, you can't get rid of the competition and you can't convince an unbuying public to want to buy.

So what can you do?

You can institute an insurance policy. A few small things that will make sure the meh doesn't turn into a total waste of time.

Here's what I do:

Pick carefully. Think about what your Right People are looking for…will they be likely to find it at this show? Will they even hear about the show?

Invite your people. Tell them in your newsletter, on Twitter, on your blog. Email them personally. Offer them something (free gift, % off) when the show up and mention they heard about the show from you.

Collect new people. Other vendors, curious lookers, shoppers, non-shoppers. An email list is the simplest way to do this, but you can use anything that both helps you collect the information and then put it to use later. (I go into detail on the whole post-show-sales subject in this class, if you'd like to know more.)

Stay open to other opportunities. Selling your thing is great, but it's not the only benefit of the show. You may make contacts in the media (leading to a future profile or writing opportunity?). You may meet shop owners (wholesale opportunity?). You will definitely meet other vendors (collaboration opportunity?).

Schedule something fun. Plan to meet-up with the locals. Visit the tourist destinations (even if that just means cupcakes + yarn).  Stay the night with a friend. Eat new food.

And despite all this…

It sucks when things don't go well. And you may doubt yourself, doubt your thing and doubt the whole doing a craft show thing.

And that's ok.

You totally don't need to see the positive, or keep your chin up, or learn from your mistakes, or any of those other encouraging things people will say.

Go on. Look at the meh. Accept the meh. Maybe pout or sleep or write a blog post about the meh.

In the meantime, I'm here to gently remind you that the meh isn't all there is.
That there will life and sales and awesome shows after the meh.

In the comments

Putting our thing out there, into the big world can be scary. In the comments we don't give advice or “you should…”; we give encouragement and share our own experiences.  I wrote this post for future-me but if it helped you, I'd love to know.

Good Shtuff: Craft Show Smartness Edition

Good Shtuff is a weekly(ish) snippet of the stuff I’m reading, listening to or watching.

I leave tomorrow for NYC and I am in all-craft-show-prep all-the-time mode, so this week the Good Shtuff is all craft-show related.

more yarn

How I prepare

I was going to link to some other people's helpful stuff, but then I remember I did that in this post. Not only does it link out, it's also a great description of what I do to get ready.

Shocking

I wrote this after my first craft show and I think it's most clearly expresses how much I love doing them: 5 1/2 Shocking Facts about Craft Shows. My favorite line: “Being friendly is exhausting, but being passionate is exhilarating.

Do I make any money?

The short answer: yes. The long answer (and how it all breaks down) is here.

But it IS a lot of work

I get real about the pain of craft shows in this post. Painful, yes. Awesome, totally. As I say, “I do craft shows because it’s the one place, the one situation in which being a full-time yarnie feels good, normal, accepted. The people get me. ”

But if you wanna do it

I compiled everything I've ever learned about succeeding at craft shows, with a heavy focus on getting post-show sales in this class. It's one of my most popular and the great news is: you can take it any time.

What have you been reading and writing this week?

Share it in the comments!

Listastic: Craft Show Prep

I had high hopes of writing insightful posts this week about my process of getting ready for a craft show (2 days till NYC!).

listomatic

But, alas, I'm knee-deep in preparations and my brain is barely functioning beyond single syllabic phrases, such as SPIN, PRINT, and What?

I had to have spell check fix the word preparations, so yeah, it's dire.

But I know that if I wait until after the show, I'll forget everything that goes into it, so I want to write something now.

So, lists. I am surrounded by lists and maybe lists provide the clearest view into the method and/or madness.

Or maybe I just need to go make another list.

Master List

IMAG0857

This is the list that has absolutely EVERY thing that has to be done before I go. Things like driving Jay to pick up the truck he's borrowing while I'm out of town with our only car, baking gluten-free bread (so I can pack myself sammiches for the trip), shipping out the BCB orders, labeling everything, picking the last of the blueberries, etc.

(I just noticed that “paint toenails” is on this list. This is not mere vanity, I always end up taking off my shoes to spin in front of customers….and end up with three year olds saying “Your polish is messed up”. True story.)

The Master List also has a list of everything I need to gather and put in the car, it has a list of the food I want to pack, it has a list of the things I'll need money for.
The master list also has a list for Jay (things like: print X of these labels, clean car, find the screws to go with those shelves), which I assure you thrills him.

Did I mention Jay is not a list-maker? When you consider my deep and abiding love for lists, it's amazing we've lasted nearly 10 years. Shocking, really.


Daily List

daily list

I make one of these around 2 weeks out (but this becomes Super Serious by the last week).

Every day has a list of the things I need to do. In theory, everything from the Master List finds a place on the daily lists. This is the ONLY way I make sure everything from the Master List actually gets done.

When, like yesterday, half of the stuff doesn't get done, it gets moved over to the next day. In theory, I won't end up with everything on the last day…

List of Smartnesses

This is the list of what I read a few weeks before I start getting ready. It gets me in the right mind to do what I gotta do. It's a combination of “remember this” and “think about this” and “what a good idea!” stuff.

Check back in tomorrow for the full List of Smartnesses (with links to everything!)

PS. If this random rambling isn't at all helpful, be comforted by the fact that I thought long and hard (and in multi-syllabic sentences!) when I taught my Rock the Craft Show class.
As the holiday craft show season approaches, it's becoming a bit of resource for crafters  and I'm hearing great things from everyone who is using the checklists.

Be Awesome Offline

Today I'm super excited to have a guest post at BeAwesomeOnline.com.
It's all about being awesome offline: networking events, craft shows, etc. Here's the first bit of it, but you can read the whole thing here.

You are awesome online. You are rocking it. Your awesomeness is shining through everywhere from your About page to your Twitter stream.

But what about the untested waters of the offline world? Are you awesome there?

Or are you hiding behind your website? Terrified of meeting someone in person, afraid you’ll morph into a salesy slimeball who hands someone their business card and says, “Call me, baby.”?

Going offline can feel like that dream where you show up naked for school.

I am an pj-wearing, home-loving hermit. Most of my business is online. My relationships, my work, my helpfulness: it all happens online. But when I quit my dayjob, I knew that to really grow, I would need to start serving branch out and come out from behind the screen.

Before I did my first craft show, I never talked about my business in person. I told people I worked in HR (my dayjob) and had no idea what to tell them about my online alter ego. What would I say? Without the filter of my website, how could I explain what I did?

In person, I’m just me. No fancy graphics. No carefully crafted pages. No tried-50-times-to-get-this-one-picture first impressions. Just me.

Without the buffer of my website and my carefully chosen words and my perfectly focused pictures, it felt a little naked.

But it can be awesome.

Offline, you see the joy in someone’s eyes as they gasp at your lovingly handmade item.
Offline, you feel that immediate click when someone really gets you.
Offline, clients can sip coffee with you, show you pictures of their family, light up when you zap their problem.

Since that first pre-craft-show jitter I’ve peddled yarn at shows across the country, organized classes for wannabe-knitters and taught hundreds of one-on-one, in-person lessons. I’ve even met some of my online friends for a coffee.  All without losing my clothes or sweating through them.

And I learned that going offline can actually be fun, if you keep a few things in mind.

Get the rest of the article and 3 tips for taking your awesomeness Offline over at BeAwesomeOnline.com.

The Power of Pricing

Last weekend, I did a really fabulous local craft show (the Lavender Festival) and once again, I learned the power of having the right price. I spent two full days meeting lovely knitters, crocheters, and wanna-be-crafters. I noticed them pick up my yarns, check out the price tag and I watched their reaction. This is maybe the hardest part of selling in person: watching and hearing reactions. Will they be negative? Positive? Indifferent? This tension can throw a normally-sane business-gal into a tizzy. It can cast doubts on all the math you did to figure out that price.

Because your price is not just a number. It represents value.

The value you place on your work and skill and passion. And the value your customers place on what they hold in their hands.

What I’ve learned through 4 years of selling my yarn in person is that the right number on the price tag is just the first step.

The  clincher is how I feel about that number.

Do I apologize for it? Do I hem and haw? Do I trip myself up trying to explain that it’s ohmygoodness it’s made by hand from local wool and really rare and and and

Or am I confident? Am I proud of my work?
Do I truly believe I deserve to make what I put on its price tag?

My confidence my belief in my work is communicated to the customer and allows them to feel accept the price. My comfort with being paid for my skill and time, gives them comfort as they reach for their wallet.

This comfort may not come naturally, but it can be learned. And if you’re going to sell (online or in person), it’s vital that you learn it.

The combination of the Right Price (one that pays you fairly and reflects the quality of the work) and the Right Person (someone who loves your work and is happy to pay for it) turns the sale into an easy, fun experience for everyone.

Oh, and at the festival this weekend? I heard not a single word about prices. Every Right Person snatched up what they wanted and whipped out their wallet with glee. I had a great time, they had a great time and we all ended up with what we needed.

 

Is that the experience you have selling your work? If not, why do you think that is?

PS. Not sure what your Right Price is? Wish you just had a simple formula and some ideas for becoming comfortable with it? Learn how to figure it out in Pricing 101, a bonus class in Pay Yourself. 

But do you make any money?

While getting ready for tomorrow's How to Rock a Craft Show class, I surveyed a bunch of crafters and asked them for their craft show questions.

The most-oft asked question:

Do you make any money at it? How much?
Did it REALLY help you quit your dayjob?

To answer this, I think it's best to look at hard numbers.

What percent of last year's income came from craft shows?
Could I have quit my dayjob without that income?

To figure it out, I added up all my sales both online and off of yarn + fiber + lessons.
Then I added up my craft show sales.
I divided my craft show sales by my total sales to get the percentage.
(Note to the more-math-minded…did I do this right?)

I got .48

48% of my sales came from craft shows.

I did the same math for 2008: 42%.

Considering I only did 2 shows in each year, I think that's pretty significant!

To get a really clear picture, I looked at the months around the craft shows. In the month preceding Urban Craft Uprising, I had 1/5 of my normal online sales. In the month following UCU, I traveled  extensively (and didn't reopen my Etsy shop) so I made about 1/10 of my normal online sales.

So while doing the show  made up for those two months, it's clear that the percentage would have been different had I kept my online sales going and didn't do the show.

In other words, I sacrificed sales before and after the show to make one big chunk of income in 2 days.
Had I not done the shows, my online sales might have made up for it.

But another consideration is that I prepared for the show during July, the slowest month for yarn sales (both in my shop and throughout the industry).
I probably would have low online sales even if I hadn't done the show.

Is there no clear answer?

I've left one thing out of the equation: post-show sales.

And those blow everything out of the water.

The people I meet at craft shows become online customers at an incredibly high rate.

It's a little hard to track, since I don't have any way of knowing how many hundreds of people I talk to at a show.
But I do know when they come online, because I recognize their names or see it in their address.

And I do know that many become repeat customers, buying yarn every month for years after the show, because they become my friends. On Twitter, in the blog comments, in my inbox.

Post-show sales come as quickly as the night after an event, when people I met that day log-on to my online shop.
Post-show sales come from people who sign up for my newsletter and buy something after getting that first newsletter.
Or the fifth.
Post-show sales come from someone at the show blogging about what they bought.

In other words, it grows.
By meeting people, talking to them about yarn, sharing my passion.

This is the aspect that makes the answer to today's question an unequivocal
YES.

It's worth it, for the people.
It's worth it, for the marketing.
And it's worth it (as I wrote yesterday), for the fun.

If you want to learn HOW to get those fabulous post-show sales, check out the class How to Rock a Craft Show.

If you have any questions, ask them in the comments!